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Bulgaria

Bulgarian PM survives vote, fresh poll due

Bulgaria's left-leaning cabinet has survived a fifth no-confidence vote. But it's likely to resign soon, opening the way for a fresh election. Bulgaria is caught in a wrangle over Russian gas deliveries to the EU.

Technocrat Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski (pictured above) narrowly won Friday's vote by 114-109, but on the condition set by his onetime allies - the ethnic Turkish minority MRF party and Socialists - that he resign and make way for a new election.

Friday's ballot, called by the center-right opposition over fiscal policy, was the fifth such no-confidence vote in the past year in the EU's poorest member nation.

Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev is expected to summon party leaders next Tuesday to set a date for elections, possibly in August or September.

Oresharski took office in May 2013 after street protests over falling living standards and corruption led to the fall of the previous government led by the center-right GERB party and its then prime minister Boyko Borisov.

Last week, the MRF withdrew its support for Oresharski's cabinet in reaction to the Socialists' drubbing in the European Parliament elections in May.

Volen, Siderov, the leader of the nationalist Attack party, which had previously given Oresharski indirect support, said on Friday "this government is exhausted."

Bulgaria caught in pipeline row

In recent months, Bulgaria was thrust into the middle of the dispute over Ukraine and Russian gas deliveries to Europe because of a pipeline project.

On Sunday, Oresharski said work on the Russian-backed South Stream gas pipeline through Bulgaria would be suspended, pending consultations with Brussels over EU and US objections to its construction.

The pipeline would pump gas to European markets thus circumventing Ukraine, with whom Russia has been holding highly tense negotiations.

GERB has said - if elected - it would scrap the contract awarded to Russia's Stroytransgaz which is owned by businessman Gennady Timchenko. He is on a US sanctions list after Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Black Sea region of Crimea.

On Friday, Socialist leader Sergei Stanishev diverged from from Oresharski's stance, saying the project could be moved forward "because it is important for Bulgaria."

Economic outlook 'improving'

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Friday that its recent fact-finding mission to Bulgaria had determined that its economic outlook was improving. It added thought that political uncertainty remained a "key risk."

A political analyst with the pollster Gallop, Kancho Stoichev, said Bulgaria's anticipated early election would probably be held in September.

ipj/kms (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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